Jesse Jarnow

“the lifting” – r.e.m.

“The Lifting” – R.E.M. (download here)
from Reveal (2001)
released by Warner Bros. (buy)

(file expires on April 24th.)

Being warm out and all, I got some quality roof/sunset time in this weekend. It made me want to listen to Reveal, by R.E.M.. Post-Automatic For the People R.E.M. tends to get a raw deal, I think. Admittedly, the last album wasn’t great (though I owe it another listen), but I think Up and Reveal are legitimate — if modest — records. There are no anthems, but that’s not their place. “The Lifting” is Reveal‘s opener. As soon as Michael Stipe comes in and the chord changes become obvious, it is unmistakably R.E.M.. The whole album is like that: virtual orchestras and noise washes, but there’s never any confusing the band. It’s a unified, unique sound, I think, often hard to place individual instruments.

Like most of my favorite R.E.M. songs (as well as Astral Weeks by Van Morrison), I’ve rarely stopped to think about the lyrics. I can sing along to “The Lifting,” I think (ditto for most of Automatic), but with few exceptions the songs have never cohered into complete thoughts or stories. Key words and phrases get lodged in my head: “seminar,” “sunken cities,” “the air was singing.” I have always associated this song with transcendence in the Sprawl. I think of gorgeous, late afternoon light hitting strip malls, chain restaurants, and parking lots. There is absolutely nothing in the lyrics to support this idea, but that’s what I love about Michael Stipe’s words: they tend to provoke nonsensical interpretations in me. They’re good carriers.

1 Comment

  1. dave g. says: - reply

    Reveal is highly underrated. That record has a very warm, organic, summery feel, that’s completely missing from their last studio record, which is horrendous IMO.